Home Talent League rivals Stoughton and Utica already had their first meeting canceled, but both squads are holding out hope for a shortened season with one matchup against each other in early August.
On April 9, the HTL Executive Board announced the season’s start was postponed until at least June 7. The league’s initial start date was April 26.
“I could see it coming with how everything was going, especially with pro baseball being postponed and schools being out,” Utica player-manager Christian Stokstad said. “I knew we were headed that way, so I wasn’t too surprised.”
The league delayed the start of the season for the second time on May 12, but also outlined a schedule for its opening weekend.
After going through the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting our lives, the Home Talent League Executive Board has decided the earliest we could have a season in 2020 would be July, the league posted on its website.
“For that reason and for teams to plan, we are setting opening day for July 4, the day to celebrate America with America’s pastime. Teams have the option of playing Friday, July 3, as well.
“Of course this starting date hinges on how our state and local governments are allowing contact, use of facilities, social distancing, etc., at that time. We will continue working toward a July 4 start date and will keep teams informed of the process, the scheduling, umpire availability and any requirements we will have to operate under going forward.”
Dane County is keeping restrictions included in Gov. Tony Evers’ current “Safer at Home” order in place until Tuesday, May 26. Stokstad is hoping his team can start practicing later next week.
“Barring any major outbreak, I think the season will go on,” Stokstad said. “People are looking for something to do and Home Talent is always a good activity for communities.”
The cancellation of Stoughton’s Syttende Mai Festival included the two Southeast Section rivals’ first meeting. The Aug. 8 matchup – which coincides with Utica Fest – is included in the plan for a shortened Sunday League season.
Each team in each section will play each other once according to the proposed schedule. The final two Sundays of the regular season – Aug. 16 and 23 – are games that were moved from June.
Each club has a “float game,” which is also rescheduled from June. Float games can be scheduled any time between July 3 and Aug. 23. Stoughton will take on Lake Mills in its float game, and Utica will battle McFarland.
The Southeast Section semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 30, with the sectional championship game set for Sept. 6. The four-team round-robin championship series will follow the section title games.
Western Section champion Verona won its second straight Sunday League championship in 2019. Cross Plains won last year’s Night League title.
Stoughton made the playoffs in both the Thursday Night League and Sunday League last season. The Merchants tied Albion and Jefferson for the regular-season section title with a 13-3 record in Sunday League play, and beat Jefferson 2-0 in the section semifinals before falling to Evansville 7-3 in the section title game.
Stoughton tied for second in the Night League East Section with Cottage Grove, two games behind regular-season champ Fort Atkinson. The Merchants (5-4) lost to top-seeded Montello in the first round of the playoffs.
Utica missed the playoffs in the Sunday League (5-11) and Night League (0-8) last season.